I have a new essay in the Texas Law Review that aims to help explain how a legal regime like labor law can (if actually enforced) facilitate organizing and collective action. The essay – Law, Organizing, and Status Quo Vulnerability – draws on social movement theory that will be familiar to many readers, and it benefits from the work of OnLabor contributors Kate Andrias, Cindy Estlund, and Brishen Rogers. With the caveat that the essay’s suggestions for particular reforms may not be, um, practically relevant in the current political context, the piece is available here and the abstract is below:
In an era of deep economic and political inequality, academics and policymakers are paying renewed attention to the decline of unions and asking how the labor movement might be revived. For legal scholars, the question is how law can facilitate unionization among workers who desire it. This essay aims to expand our understanding of how labor law enables union organizing, and, by doing so, to provide insight into both labor law reform and the relationship between law and organizing more broadly. Drawing on social movement theory, the essay shows how law can facilitate organizing by rendering the status quo vulnerable to challenge. In the labor law context, this means that law works to enable unionization by demonstrating to workers that management – and the non-union system of workplace relations it supports – is susceptible to challenge and change. The essay interprets a range of labor law rights and remedies through the lens of this theory. Having done so, the essay then suggests a set of reforms for those interested in combatting inequality through unionization. It also suggests that law’s ability to demonstrate status quo vulnerability may explain the relationship between law and social movements across contexts.